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Opinion: Industry-education partnership can close hospitality's skills gap

Building synergy between the industry and academia is the key to transforming the sector's human resources difficulties, writes Lisa Wyld

As an academic immersed in the realm of hospitality, I find myself at the intersection of tradition and innovation, where the rich tapestry of the past meets the dynamic potential of the future. The hospitality industry in the UK, steeped in heritage and globally renowned, is currently facing a pressing challenge: a significant skills shortage, with 72% more vacancies in the industry than there were before the pandemic.

I am convinced that the synthesis of education and industry holds the key to unravelling this complex conundrum and driving the sector toward an era of sustainable success. It is evident to me that education is the lynchpin that can unravel this complex issue, fostering a skilled workforce and providing the hospitality leaders of the future.

The path toward resolving this quandary is clear: a harmonious synergy between academia and industry. Institutions of higher education, such as Buckinghamshire New University, bear the responsibility for nurturing talent that is not only well equipped with practical skills but also attuned to the rapidly evolving nature of the field.

Time to Transform

For academia, we need an agile curriculum that evolves in response to the industry and to collaborate with industry experts to ensure educational programmes are not just relevant but also forward-looking. Programmes need to offer the practical immersion that is asked for by industry and emphasise experiential learning through internships, work experience and partnerships with industry establishments to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.

We need to recognise the significance of soft skills in the industry and develop a curriculum that not only hones technical expertise but also cultivates the interpersonal skills that define exceptional hospitality professionals.

For industry, we need to ensure our students are nurtured. A key way of doing this is with mentorship programmes that connect industry professionals with aspiring students. Mentorship gives valuable insights into the industry's real-world intricacies, fostering industry-ready graduates.

I'm also urging colleagues in the industry to collaborate with academia by providing feedback on graduates' skills and the industry's evolving needs. This ensures that educational programmes remain aligned with industry requirements. At Missenden Abbey International Hotel and Hospitality School, it has been about ensuring our programmes are relevant to what the industry demands and recognising the need for them to be industry-centric and industry-driven.

I am keenly aware of the transformative power that education holds, and the skills shortage haunting the UK's hospitality industry. With concerted effort, that shortage can be surmounted. By collectively investing in education, we can unlock the potential within the UK's hospitality industry.

A Delicate Balance

As we nurture skilled professionals who understand the delicate balance between tradition and innovation, we not only address the skills shortage but also pave the way for a vibrant and enduring hospitality landscape that captivates visitors and uplifts communities. An academia-industry partnership is the catalyst for this transformative journey – one that sets the stage for a sector that thrives and evolves.

Investing in education invests in the industry's future, ensuring its enduring significance as a pillar of the UK's economy and cultural heritage for generations to come. The time for collective action is now. Academia and industry must unite in shaping a resilient, skilled and thriving sector.

About the Author: Lisa Wyld, is Head of Missenden Abbey International Hotel and Hospitality School


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